CARSON, Calif. — As the LA Galaxy prepare to face the Houston Dynamo at the Home Depot Center on Wednesday, midfielder David Beckham is in England, spending time with former teammate and chum Gary Neville.
Beckham will miss the match against Houston and is scheduled to rejoin the team in Boston ahead of Saturday's match at New England. Galaxy teammates are not lamenting his absence, though.
"That's what I've been talking about the whole year — the team is the whole squad, the 28, 30 players we have," Galaxy forward Juan Pablo Ángel said. "Those kinds of circumstances appear throughout the season and we have to have players that will step up."
Beckham and Neville rose through the ranks at Manchester United together and along with players such as Paul Scholes, Phil Neville, Ryan Giggs and Nicky Butt, helped the Red Devils collect a load of silverware.
Beyond the Theater of Dreams, though, Beckham and Neville became best of friends over the years, with Neville serving as Beckham’s best man in his wedding.
Beckham donned the famous Man. United jersey, playing the full 90 minutes in a testimonial match on Tuesday to honor Neville. The Red Devils lost to Italian side Juventus 2-1 in a match which saw Beckham play on the right flank, in front of Neville, who featured at right back.
The Galaxy star whipped in his share of crosses and also attempted one of his patented free kicks which just missed the top left corner in the second half. He was also involved in an incident toward the end of the match in which he was approached by a kid, who jumped out of the stands before a corner kick. Stadium security intervened.
“For the rest of the world, testimonial games — especially for players who won everything for the club — are very, very important,” Ángel said. “It means a lot.”
Taking time off during the season and missing a game is no small matter, but neither is the time that Beckham and his fellow prospects had in building up Man Utd during the 1990s.
“You have to understand the unity that that group of players has,” Landon Donovan said. “When I was at Everton talking to Phil Neville, you understand what a family they are. It may have been a case where David would have been rested anyway like we did a few weeks ago at Philadelphia and I know it was really important to him. We have no issue with it.”
With Beckham gone, the chance is there for another player to fill his role. If it’s not Chris Birchall, it could be Paolo Cardozo. If not, it could be Michael Stephens or someone else off the bench. The depth, Ángel insisted, is there.
“That's been the case this year," he sad. "We have Landon off for a number of games, we've had David off, we've had players who haven't been able to play because of injuries and I think we've gotten results. We've been playing the same way regardless of who is playing on the field. I'm sure we're going to miss him but we have to be able to deal without him.”
The match against Houston is important — the Galaxy could claim their third consecutive win and increase their league-high point total to 26 — but Neville’s testimonial match is, too.
“Sometimes friendships don't come very often in this sport,” Ángel said. "You move back and forth to teams, you move from place to place and it's hard to just make friends. I believe that Gary is one of those close friends to David. Rightly so, he's going to be part of an important time and moment of Gary's life and I think it's an honor for David just to be part of it.”